A Thousand Splendid Suns is a perfect follow up novel by Khaled Hosseini after the success of his first novel, a best seller, The Kite Runner.
Mariam and Laila, two main characters of the novel, are born in different generations and have contrasting family backgrounds. Mariam is an illegitimate daughter of a businessman, she - after losing her mother - is married to Rasheed who is thirty years elder to her. Mariam lives in Kabul and her married life is marred with fear of her husband's 'shifting moods and volatile temperament, his insistence on steering mundane exchanges down a confrontational path...' and tolerating 'his scorn, his ridicule, his insults, his walking past her like she was nothing but a house cat...'. Laila is born in an educated Afghan family. She is a real beauty and has a doting father whose love and affection for her is unbound. Laila's mother is grieving the loss of her two sons in the war. In these painful times, her best companion is Tariq, a childhood friend, with whom Laila falls in love.
This book is a tear-jerker. Mariam and Laila go thorough severe physical and emotional abuse. I felt for them for every whip of the belt or every scornful word thrown at them. My pulse raced when they were audacious and heroic. My heart-rended when they felt fear and desolation. Their existence with Rasheed during Taliban-reign was living hell. Amidst these sufferings, Hosseini beautifully portrays the gradual transformation of Mariam-Laila relationship from coldness of guilt & betrayal to the warmth of love & affection that exists between a mother and daughter.
One of the many strong aspects of Hosseini's writing is the 'relationship development'. Whether it is Mariam -Laila or Mariam-Aziza or Zalmai-Tariq, you 'feel' the character and their feeling for each other grows on you. Hosseini is very adept in portraying the character inter-relationships which makes the reader easily character's shoes and view the situation from their perspective.
In the case of Mariam-Laila, with vivid descriptions and persuasive detail, Hosseini eloquently conveys the subtle emotions, subconscious feelings that exists between them in their mundane day-to-day life or when they are in an abject situation. The sheer momentum and gripping intensity in Hosseini's storytelling relentlessly hits the reader with the emotional reality during numerous heart-breaking, cruel and evil moments in the novel.
I liked the way the Hosseini ended the novel with a touch of optimism. For Laila, Mariam is the embodiment of love, hope and sacrifice. Laila's visit to kolba gave her a closure that Mariam has gone a long distance from her, but Laila knows "Mariam is never very far. She is here, in these walls they've repainted, in the trees they've planted, in the blankets that keep children warm, in these pillows and books and pencils. She is in children's laughter. She is in the verses Aziza recites and in the prayers she mutters when she bows westwards. But, mostly, Mariam is in Laila's own heart, where she shines with the bursting radiance of thousand suns".
Truly must read. Highly recommend!